The Fable of Us(5)

By: Nicole Williams



My stomach churned. In addition to my breathing problem, now I was having stomach issues. Leave it to Boone Cavanaugh to unleash the all-out body assault.

Plugging my nose to get it down, I lifted the shot glass to my lips and drank it in one gulp. My body convulsed. The stuff tasted how I’d guess that shower cleaner had tasted too.

“If you’re going for overdone and sensationalized, then I think you nailed it. Well done.” Sliding a bill out of my wallet, I nodded at the bartender when his eyes dropped to my empty glass. My stomach was still twisting from what Boone had just said, from what he’d just brought up. “I’m paying for my own drinks tonight, so why don’t you give Boone another of whatever he’s drinking for that five he just gave you. I don’t want anything from him either.”

Down the counter, a harsh huff sounded.

We were quiet for a moment as Tom poured us each our drinks, but as was typical, that quietness never lasted long when Boone and I were in the same room.

“Ford McBride is pathetic. You should be thanking every deity real or imagined you aren’t the sister who wound up with him.”

I tried to exhale in an effort to calm myself. I couldn’t do it. “Who says I’m not?”

“You do. By showing up for their wedding and plastering on a fake smile for the photographer. I mean, come on, Clara, that was the guy you were planning on marrying, and now he’s marrying your little sister after going behind your back with her for God knows how long.” Boone’s voice rose, every word half a note louder. “If that’s giving the guy your middle finger, then damn, you need a reeducation on the topic.”

“I think I know where to get one if I decide for myself that I need one,” I fired at him, shifting on the bar stool so I was leaning more away from him than toward him. We might have been ten feet apart, but another two inches couldn’t hurt. “And where do you get off trying to paint me as the villain with everything you’ve got stacked up in your corner?” I tucked my hair behind my ear and shook my head. “Me and everyone else the villain and you the hero. Got that twisted around there, Boone.”

When Tom slid Boone’s drink in front of him, Boone shoved it back at him, which struck me as strange. I’d maybe seen Boone Cavanaugh turn down a drink . . . never. “Oh yeah. That’s right. I forgot about you knowing everything about everyone. Guess I shouldn’t have let that slip my mind—that being an Abbott family theme and all.”

My body was so tense, my muscles felt close to snapping. I’d come into this place to find a way to relax, not to get more wound up. Massaging my temple with one hand, I took a sip of my shot with the other. My body convulsed more violently this time. This wasn’t a sip-and-enjoy type of establishment.

“Is this really how we’re going to do this, Boone?” I asked. “Picking up right where we left off seven years ago? Is this really how much we’ve matured all these years later?”

Boone’s head angled my way some. He was silent for a moment, watching me. “Where else would you expect us to pick up, Clara?”

I leaned forward, curling my arms around my drink and staring at the void right in front of me. I couldn’t look at him and talk rationally. That had always been the case, no matter how good or bad our relationship. “Somewhere along the lines of civil.”

Boone’s laugh rolled through the room. His malicious laugh, not the one I used to love. “What you did to me, how you treated me. . . you’re not the person to be going on about civility. Don’t you dare preach to me about being civil.”

I felt the first flash of alcohol in my system, dulling my inhibitions and heightening them at the same time. “And you can just get down from that high and mighty stool down there and stop lecturing me about right and wrong. Nice try.” I lifted what was left in my glass and chugged it. This drink was better than the first two—a sure sign the alcohol was doing its job. “You want to bring up the past, I’m willing to bring up a few pieces of it too.”

From the corner of my eye, I noticed him shift on his stool. He was obviously under the same impression that another couple of inches of distance couldn’t hurt.

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